(CBS Denver) — The Denver Broncos finally found a way to win a game. They knocked off AFC West rival Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, jumping out to an early lead and then clinging to it through an ugly second half. Philip Rivers was unable to complete the comeback; Denver prevailed.
This Sunday, against the inconsistent Tennessee Titans, they’ll go for their second win. “This is a very dangerous team,” notes SportsLine senior analyst Larry Hartstein about the Titans. “They’re always up and down. They were down last week. They’ll probably be up on Sunday.”
These Titans are, indeed, all over the place. They opened the season with a dominant win over the Cleveland Browns. Marcus Mariota threw for 248 yards and three touchdowns, almost a career day for him. Derrick Henry contributed 84 yards and a TD on the ground. Then came losses to the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars. In the latter, Mariota surpassed 300 yards passing, yet the Titans only scored seven points. And that came on a fourth-quarter Derrick Henry rushing TD. Their offense pulled another disappearing act in the second half of their matchup with the Atlanta Falcons, which continued through the Buffalo Bills game.
The Broncos, in some ways, have been a model of consistency. “Denver off to an 0-2 start at home,” Hartstein says. “That never happens. They’re 20-1 in the first two weeks of the season at home, coming into this year. And now they’ve lost their first two home games, both in heartbreaking fashion.”
That consistency can be a negative too. “This team has been horrible coming out of halftime,” notes Hartstein. “No halftime adjustments. They’ve only scored 12 points in the third quarter all year, and the Titans have only allowed 13 points in the third quarter all year. Denver has been shut out three times in the third quarter. They’ve lost the last four third quarters.”
That scenario played out again in the win against the Chargers. The Broncos jumped out to a 17-0 lead, then could only manage a field goal the entire second half.
So can the Broncos turn their season around? (NFL odds show Denver as two-point favorites, as of Friday.) We’ll find out in the third quarter on Sunday. “I think it’s up to Vic Fangio to prove it, with a little bit better work at halftime,” says Hartstein. “This is going to be a close game. I just think it’s fascinating if he’s able to make those adjustments.”
The Broncos play the Titans on Sunday @2:25 MT on CBS.